I love lemons. Who knew such a small little citrus fruit can pack so much zest and flavor. So when I was separating my eggs this week in anticipation of making some more macarons for Mother’s Day, I saw the perfect opportunity to make myself some lemon curd with the leftover yolks.
If you’ve never made lemon curd (or lemon cream) before, it’s so easy! Homemade lemon curd is so much better than the store-bought stuff – they never have enough zest in my opinion. Four simple ingredients, lemons (juice and zest), butter, sugar, and egg yolks – whisk, whisk, whisk – and you get wonderful, silky smooth, tangy and sweet lemon curd! It will be sure to brighten up any morning. It is great on toast, slathered on a slice of cake, sandwiched between some cookies, or as Sweets by Sillianah suggested, between some macarons!
This was also the perfect excuse for me to make one of my favorite things – braided lemon bread. I don’t know if it’s because it looks so bright and cheerful (with its warm cream cheese filling and sunny yellow lemon curd seeping out of the braids), or because it came out perfect the first time I’ve ever made it, or just because I love carbs and I love lemon – but it has definitely become one of my all time favorites.
For the Braided Lemon Bread
Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour (I actually love their website since it’s so easy to toggle between volume, ounces, and grams)
(makes one 10 x 15 inch loaf)
Note: I substituted the all-purpose flour in the original recipe for equal parts bread flour because I like my breads with a bit more chew. Next time I make this, I might just have to try another filling - nutella perhaps? raspberry jam?
- 6 tablespoons warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- all of the sponge
- 6 tablespoons plain yogurt (sour cream is a good replacement as well)
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
- 1 egg, beaten with fork, for the egg wash
Cream cheese filling
- 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
- 1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup lemon curd (or any other jam or filling you desire!)
Make the sponge: In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients. Stir well to combine, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.
1) In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the sponge, yogurt, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and flavoring. Add the flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough is a rough, shaggy mass. Switch to the dough hook and knead on speed 2 until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes, adding more flour if needed to achieve the correct consistency.
If you don’t have a stand mixer at home, like me, beat together the yogurt, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla with a whisk or electric mixer. Stir in the sponge and add the flour. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and you can gather in a ball. Gather the ball of dough and knead on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and shiny.
2) Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until quite puffy and nearly doubled.
3) While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Combine all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free. Reserve the filling and lemon curd until ready to fill the braids.
4) Gently punch and deflate the dough. Roll out the first dough into a 10″ x 15″ rectangle and transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, to divide it into 3 equal sections. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section and top with the lemon curd, leaving 1″ free on the top and bottom of the filling.
5) Now for the fun part! To form the mock braid, cut 1″ crosswise strips down the length of the outside sections, making sure you have the same number of strips down each side. (I used a scissor to cut the strips) Beginning on the left, lift the top dough strip and gently bring it across the filling diagonally. Repeat on the other side with the top dough strip, so that the two strips crisscross each other. Continue down the entire braid, alternating strips to form the loaf
6) Set the braided loaf aside to rise for another 45 to 50 minutes, or until puffy.
7) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves with egg wash (one lightly beaten egg and 1 teaspoon water). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown, careful not to over bake the bread. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
For the Lemon Curd
Note: I‘ve made this bread before with store-bought lemon curd and it tasted just fine, just make sure to let the lemon curd come to room temperature for easy spreading.
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (I just used two lemons)
- Zest of one lemon (If you don’t like your lemon curd very tart, I suggest only the zest of half a lemon)
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
Combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, zest, and sugar in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly. Heat for approximately 5-6 minutes or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove the mixture from the heat and add in the unsalted butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon after each piece. The lemon curd should be smooth and shiny after all the butter is melted and mixed in.
Pour the lemon curd into a container and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until firm and chilled.